Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Hold parents more accountable


Recently the people of the state of Idaho overturned three laws commonly referred to as “The Luna Laws.” I believe that our current education system, along with the rest of the country, needs to be changed or reformed in many ways. One way that I never see addressed is that of the responsibility and accountability of the parent or guardian of the student. I sincerely believe that this is the most important aspect of “reforming” education.

I have watched the disintegration of what used to be called the nuclear family over the past 40-50 years and along with it the decline in the academic performance of our young people. Throughout the years, a pattern that is almost universal has developed. The student with motivated and involved parents is a motivated and high achieving student. The parents attend open houses and parent conferences; contact teachers regarding ways to ensure that their child succeeds; stress to their children the value and importance of education, and support the teachers and administration of the school.

On the other side of that coin is the low motivated and low achieving student. His or her parents, if they are even present, are rarely if ever heard from; do not respond to attempts to contact them regarding the progress or behavior of their child; do not stress the value and importance of education to their child, and often blame the teacher and administration for the problems related to the child.

I have seen the classroom environment deteriorate to the point where the teacher is spending more time dealing with the student who is disruptive and/or disrespectful than teaching those students who are there to learn. I have experienced students, who I refer to as willful failures, who make absolutely no attempt to learn, and many times the parents, if you can contact them, ignore the situation. Teachers are already basically being told to deal with it. Teachers are being expected to be the surrogate parent as well as the academic instructor. Being that surrogate parent is taking more and more of the time away from the academic learning.

The No. 1, most important, responsibility of a parent is to raise and educate their child. Failure to do so, in my mind, is a form of child neglect. With all due respect, I do not believe that much will change with regard to academic excellence until parents are forced to be responsible and accountable for the effort and behavior of their children. Contrary to the recent public perception, and because of the emphasis on the low performing population, there are significant numbers of Idaho students who are high achieving and educationally successful.

I know of students attending Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities. Those students are not the students who are bringing down the test scores. The students who are the bulk of the low performing students are those who do not master the fundamentals in the early education and elementary years. These students are, unfortunately, often socially promoted; many times because of parental refusal to allow the holding back until mastery is achieved.

Although simplistic in its idea, but undoubtedly complicated to enact and enforce, I would create a law to require parents or guardians to be responsible and accountable for the effort and behavior of their child. Link it to the child neglect laws. The law would basically be as follows:

  • If a child does not come to class prepared (having books, paper and pencil, homework, etc…) or is disruptive and/or disrespectful, or does not try his or her best on assignments and tests, the parents are called to come and pick up the child for the day. The child can return the next day, but if it happens again, the parent gets called again, and every time until the child gets the message. If the parent does not come and get the child, law enforcement is called and a child neglect report is taken.

How long do you think that it would take before most parents would impress upon their child that the child had better get with the program, because mommy and daddy will lose their job if they have to continually be called to pick up Tommy or Susie? If the parents are receiving welfare, etc…. hold back on those payments. If you force parents to be accountable for their children, the majority of the problems in public education would disappear.

Why do you think private and charter schools are so successful? Parents are involved, accountable, and responsible for the effort and behavior of their children.

Who would vote for a law of this type? Parents who are tired of seeing their children in a learning environment where their learning is interrupted and taken by kids who don’t do what is right.

Who would vote against this law? The adults who know that they would have to begin to do their job or suffer consequences.

I believe that we are already headed for a three tiered education system. The first two tiers (Private and Charter schools) will be for those parents and students who are motivated and value education. The third tier, and somewhat what we have already, will be the public schools for the remainder of the students and parents who don’t care or value education.

The motivated parents and children are easy. What is the plan when it all washes out and the public schools are primarily full of kids with parents who don’t care?

Again, with all due respect, I do not believe that the public school achievement scores will significantly improve unless the parents of the low motivated and discipline problem students are forced to be responsible and accountable for their children. I would welcome the opportunity to become involved in improving this situation as it relates to the education of the children of Idaho.



Ed DePriest

Ed DePriest is a teacher at Bonners Ferry High School. He has been a teacher and coach the past 30 years. He is not a member of any union.

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